EXCLUSIVE: Council apologises after 500 letters sent out in error, telling people they must pay for their care

Josh Salisbury (19 September, 2018) Health

Cllr Jasmine Ali : “We highlighted the issue on the front page of the council’s website at the earliest opportunity. If any residents are still concerned about this matter please do get in touch with us.”

2716Southwark Council

Southwark Council has apologised for wrongly sending letters to 500 people receiving care services telling them they need to start paying.

The letter, dated August 21, tells adult social care recipients that their package has been reassessed and they need to begin paying for their care from September 3.

The error left a substantial number of families receiving council funded care in limbo – because they didn’t know whether the care would be funded or not.

One person affected by the blunder – who did not wish to be named – said they had taken over their relative’s care themselves as a result of the letter, rather than risk running up debt to the council.

She said: “We got the letter over the bank holiday.

“So the earliest I could speak to someone was Tuesday and it was the following week that the new charges were supposed to start.

“The timing of them, even if they end up being correct, it’s outrageous. You don’t give people one week to organise care for somebody.”

Her mother, 83, is bed-bound, partially-blind and has dementia. She received three visits a day as part of care services which cost up to three hundred pounds a week.

The error has meant that she has needed to change their working hours in order to care for her mother rather than risk running up hundreds or thousands of pounds of debt to the council.

They first raised the error two weeks ago, when the letter was received, but have not since received clarification on whether they have to pay for their mum’s care.

Now she is visiting her  mother three times a day on top of her  full time job and doing weekend work to make sure she is properly cared for.

She said: “The reason I’ve done it is because I didn’t want to assume that hers was one sent in error. Because if they say no, yours is correct, by that time she would owe thousands of pounds.

“I’m not going to take that chance.

She added: “We’re talking about very vulnerable people, elderly people, people who have psychological issues.

“They don’t need to be getting those letters especially if they have nobody to advocate on their behalf.

“The care would still continue but all that would happen is that the company would say you now owe us lots of money because Southwark Council have stopped paying.”

When the News rang the number on the letter, an automated message said the line was experiencing a high volume of calls and the department was aware of the error.

It said: “If you are calling regarding the letter dated 22 August please note we are aware of this and we are looking into a way to rectify this.”

Approached by the News, Cllr Jasmine Ali, cabinet member for children, schools and adult care said the council “sincerely apologised” for the “worry and concern” caused by the blunder.

She said: “This should not have happened and I want to personally reassure residents that I have investigated this matter and the appropriate action has been taken.

“Due to an administrative error approximately 500 out of 2,500 residents received client contribution letters that contained incorrect information.

“As soon as we became aware of this we worked swiftly to rectify the matter. We wrote to all residents who received the incorrect letter and provided them with the correct information, as well as responding to individual queries raised directly with the team.

She added: “We also highlighted the issue on the front page of the council’s website at the earliest opportunity. If any residents are still concerned about this matter please do get in touch with us.”

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